Fall is finally upon us here in Tallahassee, and with cooler weather comes the heating up of both committee meetings and policy wins for Florida’s natural environment. 
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Governor DeSantis makes an announcement.
Governor DeSantis announced water quality improvement legislation.
Governor Announces Legislation to Expedite Water Quality Improvements
On Wednesday of this week, Governor DeSantis announced proposed legislation for the 2020 Legislative Session – based on recommendations provided by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force – to expedite water quality improvements throughout Florida. The Blue-Green Algae Task Force was convened by the Governor shortly after taking office to focus on solutions to accelerate progress towards reducing harmful algae blooms.

The proposed legislation calls for the following:

Upgrades and replacement of wastewater infrastructure together with proactive inspections to avoid future discharges.   

Transfer of the septic inspection and permitting program to DEP to improve environmental oversight of the permitting program.

Updates to the best management practices for agriculture, improved implementation of the FDACS’ BMP program and better tracking of water and fertilizer use by enrollees.

Ratification of DEP’s proposed revised rule to prevent nutrient pollution from biosolids.

Adoption of rules by DEP to ensure that stormwater systems throughout the state reflect the most up-to-date science and contemplate environmental harm.

Read more here.
Painted Bunting.
Painted Bunting. Photo: David Shipper.
Florida Senate Holds Committee Meeting on Sea Level Rise and Climate Change
The Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security met to discuss issues related to infrastructure resiliency and climate change. Audubon is encouraged by Chairman Senator Tom Lee’s focus on sea level rise and the impact of climate change on Florida. With a new generation of bi-partisan climate solutions leaders, we are witnessing a fundamental change in the legislature’s approach to climate change.

Florida Chief Resilience Officer, Dr. Julia Nesheiwat, expressed to the committee a few of her goals as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer, including: building a statewide strategy, seeking additional federal resources, and highlighting natural infrastructure practices. Dr. Nesheiwat also offered a standard definition of “Resiliency.” The proposed language would define resiliency as “the ability to adapt to changing conditions and prepare for, withstand and recover from disruption.”
Bonaparte's Gull. Photo: Peggy Scanlan.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Presents Their Proposed Budget
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented their 2020-2021 budget request to the committee. Deputy Chief of Staff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Leslie Reed, provided an overview of DEP’s legislative budget request. Audubon is encouraged to see: 

•        $625 million dollars in recurring funding for the next three years for water quality improvements, springs restoration, alternative water-supply, and Everglades restoration.
•        $20.8 million dollars in funding for science-based solutions. This includes $10 million dollars in funding for innovative technologies that address harmful algal blooms and $10.8 million dollars in funding for increased Florida water quality monitoring, support for the Blue-Green Algae Taskforce, and the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency.
•        $200 million dollars in funding to implement science-based recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Taskforce and the Chief Science Officer.
•        $318.6 million dollars for Everglades restoration.
•        $100 million dollars in funding for Florida Forever.
•        $8.5 million dollars for resiliency and coastal protection.

Audubon Florida will work closely with Florida House and Senate leadership during the 2020-2021 legislative budget process.
Miami-Dade County Votes for Clean Buses
On Thursday October 3, 2019, the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of 33 battery-electric buses and charging systems for the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works. This purchase builds on a commitment made by Miami-Dade County to move forward in its goal of zero emissions. As one of the largest transportation fleets in the State of Florida, Miami-Dade County has now invested tens of millions of dollars in its quest to lead in large scale fleet conversion. 

Congratulations to all the grassroots advocates like you who made this victory possible!

Read more here.
Electric Car.
Audubon Florida Offers Model Ordinance Toolkit to Inspire Local Change
Want to see climate wins like Miami-Dade’s in your city or county?

Change begins with you! Changes at the local level can add up to big savings—in greenhouse gas emissions and taxpayer dollars. Improving the energy efficiency and clean energy mix of your city or county and keeping your waterways free of polluting nutrients can fight climate change and harmful algal blooms.

Curious about what your city or county could do? Here are some of the common ways small communities can make a huge difference. To make it even easier, we’ve included examples—model ordinances—that your city or county staff can consider as a starting point for crafting the solutions that work best in your community.

Reach out to us if you would like to highlight model ordinances in your community! We can be reached at flconservation@audubon.org.

There’s no time to waste. Let’s get started today!

Click here to see model ordinance toolkit.
Roseate Spoonbill. Photo: Joshua Pelta Heller
Roseate Spoonbill. Photo: Joshua Pelta Heller
New Audubon Report Details Risks of Climate Change Extinction
The National Audubon Society has announced a groundbreaking climate report, Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink.

As a result of climate change, nearly two-thirds of America’s bird species are threatened with extinction. However, we still have time to save up to 75 percent of these at-risk species if we take action now. In Florida, Audubon is working to reduce our state’s carbon footprint and save taxpayer dollars by improving energy efficiency, helping make our coastal areas more resilient, and inspiring citizens to work with their elected officials to expand renewable energy sources.

Click here to follow five of Florida’s most iconic species as we explore how they may react to climate change.
Audubon Staff Report Red Tide
Audubon staff and volunteers have documented a red tide algal bloom in the immediate proximity of Marco Island, Naples, and Ft. Myers. As of today, they have photographed nine dead sea turtles, as well as numerous bird carcasses, fish kills, and other injured wildlife. Six dead sea turtles were found in one 24 hour period alone. Collier County staff have documented 20 dead sea turtles on the beach since October 4th.While it is too early to tell how long this outbreak of red tide will last and how many birds, turtles, dolphins, and fish will be lost this year, Floridians must continue to work together to reduce the nutrients entering our system through stormwater regulation, septic inspections and transition to municipal sewer, as well as implementing agricultural best practices.

Florida wildlife is resilient, but our local species cannot survive year after year of severe toxic algal blooms. Reach out to your elected official today and tell them that water quality should be a pivotal issue in the 2020 Legislative Session.
Carolina Wren.
Carolina Wren. Photo: Beth Schultz.
Florida Department of Transportation Presents Committee with M-CORES Progress
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) updated the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee on the M-CORES process and overall project progress. During the presentation, FDOT Chief Engineer Will Watts consistently reinforced the department’s commitment to environmental protection during the planning process. The final report will be delivered to the Governor, Senate President, and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives by October 1, 2020. FDOT Representative Will Watts acknowledged that this is an expedited process but promised the process will be thorough in scope, planning, and evaluation. Public input will be reviewed throughout the planning process.

Audubon Florida is represented in the task force process by Dr. Paul Gray and Director of Advocacy Charles Lee. Audubon Florida will continue to provide expert advice on the protection of wildlife and environmentally sensitive area throughout the planned routes.

October through December bring the Suncoast Connector task force meetings as well as two community open houses. See the schedule below, and click here for additional information.

Suncoast Connector Task Force Meeting #2
October 23, 2019 at 10 a.m.
College of Central Florida Citrus Learning Center
3800 S Lecanto Highway
Lecanto, FL 34461 

Suncoast Connector Community Open House
October 24, 2019, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Old Town Education Center
823 SE 349 Highway
Old Town, FL 32680 

Suncoast Connector Task Force Meeting #3
December 17, 2019, 10 a.m.
IFAS Auditorium
203 Forest Park Drive
Perry, FL 32348 United States

Suncoast Connector Community Open House
December 19, 2019, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Alton Family Life Center
2365 East US 27
Mayo, FL 32055 United States
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